GETTING STARTED AT ASACURA INTERNATIONAL By Brigit Muskat, University Of Canberra; adapted by Katie Turton, Curtin University

Two months had passed since Julie Mok started her first job with the international insurance company ASACURA International. This is her first full time job since she graduated with a Bachelor degree in Management. Julie was very happy when she first received her job offer. This prestigious company employs more than 20 000 employees worldwide. She had written more than 28 different job applications and had attended five different job interviews.

Julie’s role at ASACURA was described to her as being part of an international human resources team that, from day one, would work on several projects with a lot of responsibility.

The first project Julie has been assigned to work on is a recruiting event for undergraduate management students. She has been introduced to the team she’ll be working with on the project; they are all very experienced recruiters. The event will be held in a couple of weeks, and should attract third‐year students for future full‐time positions as well as interns at ASACURA International.

ASACURA had been running these events for 15 years, but over the last three years the recruits introduced through this event and converted into the graduate program had dropped from 75% to 55%.

The first week of her team work experience was very exciting. Julie was impressed by how much experience the other five team members had. In the first meeting, they communicated openly and told Julie that the five of them had been working together for a long time and that they knew each other very well. Initially, she found it very helpful to join a team with a strong culture and a very structured approach to working together. The group seemed to operate with no formal leadership and the meetings had a rotating chairperson, so everyone in the group had a turn at running the meeting.

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However, after the first couple of weeks on the team, she found it increasingly difficult to work with her colleagues. Julie found it difficult to introduce or suggest new ideas. The team seemed to have a set approach for managing the events. The promotional campaign for the events went to only three of the five local universities and the team explained it was because they recruited 80% of their graduates from these universities in the past and they were considered to be the best. Julie knew that her university, which wasn’t among the select three, had introduced a global focus and had a specialist actuarial stream. When Julie tried to share this information, Tonia Gill dismissed it with, ‘Yes, we heard they were experimenting from our contact at Morgan Uni. We have great contacts at the other three universities and they align well with ASACURA’s traditional values’. Paul Smythe added, ‘We don’t have any contacts at the other Universities’ Business Schools, anyway, and trying to cultivate these at short notice would make us appear disorganised and unprofessional.

Julie was very passionate about planning the event, as she was sure she had a very good understanding of the ‘target audience’. She was only a few years older than the student audience and felt she had a good grasp of what students would find interesting. She had been asked to work on the slides for the event. This mainly involved inserting the latest information on timelines and contacts into last year’s slide deck. Julie was keen to develop a presentation that was more dynamic, add some video and music at points and also invite the audience to interact with their smartphones. Tonia explained that the GM, who would be speaking at this event, was familiar with the current format and it would be unprofessional to expect him to adapt to a new presentation with less than two weeks notice.

Despite her growing anxiety about the team, Julie persisted in suggesting new ideas. But two weeks ago, one of the team members, Harry Main, asked Julie to have a one‐on‐one talk after a project meeting. In a calm but very firm voice, Harry said: ‘Julie, I am sorry to say, but you have to integrate yourself more into the group. Most of the core team members have been working together for nearly eight years now, we are very used to each other, and we expect cohesive consensus. We have so much experience, and we are experts in organising successful events, so we just expect you to listen carefully. Otherwise this will get

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very difficult for all of us.’

Since then, Julie has lost a lot of her initial enthusiasm for the project and felt under a lot of pressure. She has been thinking all weekend about what to do and how to react to Harry’s comments. Her first job out of university was so important to her, and she remembered what she was promised in this role when she received her job offer. They had told her that she would work in a wonderful team, and would have ample opportunities to contribute creative and innovative ideas.

After this incident with Harry, Julie noticed something else in Harry’s behaviour towards another team member, Enrique Armo. Julie had overheard a conversation between the two. Harry had threatened to tell the head of human resources (HR) that Enrique sometimes leaves the office earlier, in response to urgent family issues. It was quite clear to Julie what that meant—the head of HR was the team’s disciplinary supervisor. The issue could cause a lot of trouble for Enrique if the head found out.

Julie became even more upset after this happened last week. She decided to confide with Joshua Yem, another recent recruit to ASACURA who worked in Accounting. They had met through the induction/orientation process. ‘I don’t understand why Harry thinks he has authority over the team and can threaten Enrique’, Julie told him. ‘Harry is neither the supervisor, nor known for doing a good job or knowing a lot. And, I can’t believe he spoke to me, he is not my boss, nor the project leader. Everyone of us has different responsibilities in the group.’

Joshua responded. ‘I know exactly what you are talking about’, he replied. ‘Harry is friends with a colleague of mine. He has been working for ASACURA for ages and has built himself a network of connections in the organisation. He has a reputation forgetting involved in every decision and not being afraid to speak up at any meeting. He often talks to influential people in the cafeteria.’

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‘We have to learn how we can respond to these situations’, Joshua encouraged, ‘and build our own reputations, in a more positive way’. Julie really liked talking to Joshua. It made her reflect on her own situation, and she often felt a lot better afterwards. Julie starts to think about all the positive aspects of her work.

For instance, after this initial three‐month project, she will be integrated in an international project team. She will be working with some colleagues at the office here in Melbourne, but also with team members from Singapore, France and China. She already knows the group task: it with will be to redevelop an online training platform. Julie has learnt that there is an existing online training tool, but currently only employees at the company’s headquarters in Australia participate in training activities. Julie has just been briefed about her particular role, which sounds very interesting to her. It will be her responsibility to oversee the ‘cultural adaptiveness’ of the tool for the following ‘user’ countries that should participate in using this tool: Australia, Singapore, China and France.

With this in mind, Julie feels that she can overcome her difficulties in the current project team. However, she also knows for her personal wellbeing that she needs to find some strategies to cope with her present situation.